Wednesday, May 12, 2021
May 12, 2021

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In our View: Cheers & Jeers: Listening helps; delays hurtful

The Columbian

Cheers: To constructive conversations. City of Vancouver officials facilitated three virtual listening sessions on race and policing last week, hearing personal anecdotes about justice and police brutality. “It was hard,” Mayor Anne McEnerny-Ogle said. “It’s a fearfulness of your everyday life. … We were there to listen and learn. It was very intense.”

The sessions were held in private, rather than being recorded and publicly broadcast, a decision that drew mixed reactions. While we often argue on the side of open government, the visceral nature of current discussions about race warrants the cloak of privacy to ensure open discussion. Comments will be transcribed with names removed and provided to the public. Eventually, public meetings should be held as Vancouver grapples with systemic racism. But for now the sessions are a good first step to opening much-needed dialogue.

Jeers: To delayed benefits. Many residents in Clark County (and throughout the state) are still waiting for unemployment benefits in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. About 70,000 claims statewide are under review by the state Employment Security Department, months after the pandemic forced businesses to close.

Clark County residents have received about $128 million in unemployment benefits; by comparison, they received $43 million in all of 2018. That represents the unprecedented workload faced by the state, but it does not absolve officials of criticism for a disappointing performance. People are in need of assistance, and the state has failed to meet those needs.

Cheers: To the Vancouver Farmers Market. Hot food has returned as the weekend market continues to expand and coronavirus restrictions are eased. The market now has room for about 70 vendors instead of the usual 150, and officials are working to limit the number of visitors. “How do we count customers? That’s our biggest issue right now,” market director Jordan Boldt said.

Attendance remains low compared with previous years, but officials expect it to grow. Customers should wear masks and be conscientious about social distancing. Despite the limitations necessitated by COVID-19, the market remains a staple of summer in Vancouver.

Jeers: To the death of big, old trees. Recent research indicates that old-growth forests are disappearing in Washington and British Columbia — a result of climate change, logging and land-use changes. Trees that have grown for hundreds of years are increasingly unable to survive current conditions, serving as a harbinger of larger environmental problems.

Scientists note that as more giant trees die, more carbon is released into the atmosphere, further exacerbating climate change. Old-growth forests are essential to the health of the planet because they soak up and store carbon produced by humans. But even the sturdiest of trees are being overwhelmed by current conditions.

Cheers: To accountability. Agrochemical giant Monsanto has agreed to pay Washington $95 million to settle a lawsuit that blamed it for pollution from toxic industrial chemicals. “Washington has been shouldering the health and environmental costs of PCB contamination and cleanup for decades,” state Attorney General Bob Ferguson said. “This record payment holds Monsanto accountable for the harm they inflicted on our state.”

PCBs were banned in the United States during the 1970s, but internal documents revealed company officials were aware of their toxicity decades before that. The settlement is a victory for Washington residents.